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Caruth, E.G. (1986). In Search of Self in the Selfobject: A Discussion of “Affects and Selfobjects,” by Daphne D. Socarides and Robert D. Stolorow. Ann. Psychoanal., 14:245-255.

(1986). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 14:245-255

In Search of Self in the Selfobject: A Discussion of “Affects and Selfobjects,” by Daphne D. Socarides and Robert D. Stolorow

Elaine G. Caruth, Ph.D.

In an article published in the last volume of The The Annual of Psychoanalysis Socarides and Stolorow (1984/85) examined the nature of the concept of the selfobject, which, as defined by Kohut, is an object that is experienced by the person as incompletely separated from himself. The selfobject serves the function of developing and maintaining a sense of a cohesive self, through what is described as the mirroring and idealizing self experience. They recognize that such a limited formulation runs the risk of the concept either foundering upon the shoals of what one could describe as a developmental delay in theory construction, by remaining too limited and concrete, or else of becoming capsized by a grandiose syncretism that becomes overly expansive and engulfs all relationships, thereby reducing them simplistically to this one parameter.

They suggest that Kohut's original formulations of the mirroring and idealizing selfobject experience describe but one special instance of the selfobject function. They expand the concept developmentally to include the attunement to and articulation of affect states in the child. This is seen as critical for enabling the affects to become integrated into psychic structures within the self which then aid in the evolution of the child's own self-soothing capacities.

Although they restore the significance of early bodily experiences in their definition of affects as initially equivalent to the first somatic states, they do not define the nature of affects other than by describing their central function.

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